Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

A Spark of Light (Jodi Picoult)

Spark of LightThe novel had been sitting in my TBR pile for several months. I had made several attempts to start, but life always tended to get in the way. That’s actually a fairly accurate summary of my 2019 reading life — everything else always seems to get in the way of my reading. When Spring Break arrived, I realized this was my opportunity to escape into the world of Jodi Picoult again and explore A Spark of Light.

A Spark of Light is set in Jackson, Mississippi and traces the events of a single day at The Center – a reproductive health center… abortion provider. George Goddard enters the bright orange building, asks what they did to his baby, and pulls out a handgun. Shots are fired. Blood is shed. Professionals and patients in The Center now find themselves as hostages. Hugh McElroy, the police negotiator celebrating his 40th birthday, is called to the scene in an effort to end the standoff before the SWAT team is sent in. Once he arrives at the scene, Hugh makes an unsettling discovery. Two of the women in The Center are his older sister, Bex, and his 15-year-old daughter, Wren.

In typical Picoult fashion, A Spark of Light is a gripping tale. The narrative shifts between character perspectives throughout each chapter that explores the events of each hour of the fateful day at The Center. Surprisingly to this reader, the timeline emerges in a reverse-chronological fashion, exposing many of the causes of previously seen events. Picoult’s characters are beautifully drawn and are anything but one-dimensional. Just as you think you understand a woman’s choices, you learn that there is more to her back story that is vitally important.

Is this novel about abortion rights? Yes and no. Of course, the issue is present throughout the book with its views of providers, patients, and protestors. However, I didn’t feel as though I was reading a treatise on the issue of abortion in the US. (When you read the author’s note at the end of the book, Picoult’s views on the topic become much clearer in case there is any doubt though.) Instead, the novel itself was an examination of humanity and how a cast of characters may respond to the abortion debate while attempting to explain how they might have arrived at their view. While I did not always agree with Picoult’s characterization of some groups, I thought that she ultimately managed to treat all considered equally and with respect.

I’m always fascinated by the titles of novels. The use of A Spark of Light is explained in the closing chapters of the book. While traveling to The Center from his Atlanta home, Dr. Ward (the central abortion provider of the story) is catching up on his reading of medical journals. In one of his articles, researchers have observed that at the moment of fertilization, a rush of calcium into the egg caused the release of zinc. As the zinc exited the egg, it attached to fluorescent molecules, creating a tiny spark of light.

Once again, Jodi Picoult has produced a fascinating novel that addresses a topic that is relevant to our culture. She examines the issue from both sides of the argument with grace and clarity. By inserting heart and the human condition, Picoult shows that things are not always as black and white as we might initially perceive. I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.

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Jack’s Book Club (March 2019)

March has been a busy month for me, so I’m just now making my way to the bookstore to make this month’s selections for Jack’s Book Club. I’ve heard that my little buddy has been really sick recently, so I’m excited to get these books in the mail tomorrow morning so he can have some fun with a couple of new books that I absolutely fell in love with.

img_0125Ellie by Mike Wu is the story of a young elephant and her animal friends in a zoo that is about to close. In an effort to save their home, the animals all begin to pitch in to make things better. The only problem is that Ellie is not able to help because she is too short and not strong enough. Just as she becomes convinced that she is simply too small to help, Ellie finds herself with a paintbrush in her trunk…and she begins to contribute to the world through her art! (Can’t imagine WHY I think this is such an important message for children to hear, can you?)

Besides its charming story, the art work in this book is stupendous! Each page is filled with vibrant color and detailed images. I love the characterization of each animal too! Just so there is no surprise, Mike Wu is an animator at Pixar and has worked on movies ranging from The Incredibles to Ratatouille and Up. Clearly, Mr. Wu is a gifted artist.

img_0124This month’s second selection hooked me as soon as I saw the cover with its graphic images and enticing title. After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat tells just that story. Humpty Dumpty has been completely repaired to his former glory — well, almost. Despite being a whole egg again, Humpty is now afraid of heights! He misses the view from high atop the wall. When he finally gets the courage to climb to the heights again, Humpty experiences an unexpected change and the answer is not given to the reader in the text. I love when a young reader has to look carefully at the pictures and deduce what happened to the hero. (If I’m honest, it took me a minute to figure it out in the bookstore today…..but when I got it, I GOT IT! The people sitting nearby might have thought I had lost my mind momentarily.) Make sure you don’t miss the image and statement on the back cover of the book either: “Life begins when you get back up!” Author Dan Santat is a Caldecott Medal winner for his 2015 book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, so the pictures in this book are also incredible.

img_0126Normally, that’s where I end these posts, but this month I have to give a shout out to another wonderful picture book that I read today. I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll with illustrations by Howard McWilliam was an incredibly funny read. In brief, a young boy has gone to bed and realized that the monster that lives under his bed has gone on a fishing trip for a few days. The boy realizes that he will miss his monster and begins interviewing others to fill in as a replacement. The creatures are initially somewhat scary, but quickly reveal that they are hysterical. Probably better for an older child, I Need My Monster can be a welcome return to reading for the child that likes more mature themes with incredible visual stimulation.

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